"I'm outraged, and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged," said El Paso, Sheriff Richard Wiles in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart ending more than 20 lives.
I suspect like many Americans, I am still a bit numb with the horrific news of the latest two back to back mass shootings, still ringing in the ears of local law enforcement in the border town of El Paso, Texas as well as in the heart of Ohio, Dayton. And as advocates on both sides of the gun control debate line up and open fire on each other across online spaces...I sit and wonder if this too isn't part of the division these shooters want to foment? A race war? A new civil war?
Another young white male, another 'manifesto,' more than 30 innocent lives lost, dozens more injured...and where/when does it end? No one really has an answer for that, so perhaps we should try harder to determine where this is all beginning.
I have spent in my volunteer life, much of the past few decades remaining engaged with college students, both through my alma mater, the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, as well as through my college fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, at both the local and national levels. Where much of college life remains the same, as campus culture and society evolve, I've noted a significantly general softening among my younger male counter-parts on most college campuses today, which has at times caused me both pause and concern.
Alienation, non-socialization and remaining a virgin against one's will or life plans are powerful seeds planted towards building resentment and hatred. Who is to blame? How to reassert or change one's status? It's not difficult to see a pattern to fame and glory and even some degree of notoriety playing out an afternoon of Fortnite in the real world.
For those unfamiliar, Fortnite (created in 2017) is an online video gaming platform with three separate games, each played by millions. Fortnite Battle Royale, which can be played simultaneously by as many as 100, pits player against player in a battle of survival of the fittest, ending when all but one player has been eliminated or killed. I have walked in on a few groups playing this game with great passion and enthusiasm, the gun play and swearing might only be louder at a convention among mercenaries of war.
There will again be talk of gun control reform. However, Chicago, Illinois, with some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation, and also one of the world's highest rates of murder and violent crime, experienced dozens of separate shootings and nearly 40 deaths the same horrific weekend. Yes, we can revisit the law, but isn't it time we also re-visit how we raise our young men?
I did not walk six miles to school, through the snow each day, barefooted...but household chores, mowing our lawn and part-time jobs became routine during what would have then been middle school years. Real life lessons of adversity, work ethic, dues paying, conflict resolution and accepting constructive criticism had all been learned well before the middle of high school.
As a late Baby Boomer, we were also towards the end of the Selective Service and potential draft, which I'm not suggesting be re-instated, however I can see great benefit in renewing discussions of a year or two of national service work just after high school. As with serving in our nation's military, the common duty, common mission and shared surroundings might help serve as a great equalizer.
We are yet entering fall of this year, and 125 Americans have already lost their lives in mass shootings. As schools start back, how many children are heading to their classrooms in fear, and how many parents are wondering if they have done enough to prepare their offspring for sudden attack?
Whether or not you agree with it taking the whole village to raise a child, I'll wager a majority of you can well remember when your neighbors almost all knew one and other, and at times came to assist without ever being asked. Conflict is a part of life, and building coping skills for such challenges are as important as developing coordination, balance and muscle strength for sport.
It is time for a national conversation and determining the root causes of this plague. If the Ebola virus or some other virulent strain attacked and killed a few hundred Americans in a period of months, we would fight back with all of our national will and unlimited resources. Finding this cure may take a bit longer, but certainly there are steps we can begin to take as soon as today to move us in a better and safer direction. Our sympathies and condolences to those grieving the lives lost. And prayers do matter as well.